14 Jan How was 2020 for the pre-cooked pulses sector?
It’s been a complicated year for the pre-cooked pulses sector and the food sector in general. However, looking back, the overall yearly assessment of the pre-cooked pulses sector was positive. Just like all other business and social areas, the tinned foods industry this year has been marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet since it is included among what are considered essential activities, we’ve made extra efforts to guarantee a constant supply for our customers.
Hotel and restaurant closings have had an impact on production, but it has been minimal. On the contrary, the increase in the household consumption of pulses has mitigated this deficit. In fact, both private consumers as well as supermarkets and hypermarkets decided to stockpile provisions during the first few months of the pandemic in view of all the uncertainty so as to avoid any surprises. This meant full-time operations for manufacturers of tinned vegetables and pre-cooked pulses like us.
Added to all of this, we had already been experiencing years of increases in the consumption of pulses and changes in trends and people’s food preferences. One of these changes has been a greater interest in organic products. There’s also been a desire for ready-to-eat choices and small formats for individual consumption. More and more people are eating single dishes at meals. However, the growing concern for following a healthy diet means such a dish must meet all nutritional needs.
Thus, tinned pulses are gaining in popularity due to their nutritional value, the speed at which they may be prepared at home and ease of consumption. The prices are also affordable, especially when it comes to distributor brands. This factor is very much taken into consideration when food shopping during any crisis and this pandemic has been no different.
INNOVATION IN PRE-COOKED PULSES.
Consumers, small grocer’s, local supermarkets and large hypermarkets have also demanded innovation in food this year. Innovating in such a mature market like tinned vegetables and in a social context marked by the pandemic is no easy task. There is great competition and supermarkets’ capacity to include new references on their shelves is limited. Nonetheless, the key lies in creating a special niche and committing to specialization. At Autor Foods, we’ve been able to do this by focusing on the production of tinned pre-cooked pulses and tinned organic pulses.
And, above all, we’ve been able to do it by committing to the development of our own R&D department to encourage the launch of new products. This is why we constantly work to offer something different. Although it’s difficult to innovate in this sector, there’s always room for improvement. To do so, we study trends and consumer preferences to create new combinations and add special ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, black truffle and kombu algae.
These are some of the ingredients we’ve used to develop tinned foods such as white beans with shiitake mushrooms, chickpeas with truffle, white beans with vegetables and kombu algae or chickpeas with vegetables and kombu algae. All of them have been launched under one of our own brands, Picuezo Selección, yet we’ve also produced them under distributor brands.
The acceptance of these new products by the general public has been a real success. In fact, one of them, our white beans with shiitake mushrooms produced for Consum, received the 2020 “Salute to Excellence” prize from the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA). Among other things, the panel highlighted the innovative idea of combining pulses with fungi. This recognition gave a real boost to our business project and reinforces the idea that we’re on the right path to becoming the ideal partner in pre-cooked pulses.
EXPORTATION OF PRE-COOKED PULSES.
Exports of pre-cooked pulses have also been a determining factor this year. Such is the case that international markets are becoming more and more receptive to these operations. It’s a trend that particularly values Spanish foods due to the high quality standards governing the food industry and the high scores obtained by the tinned foods industries on audits such as the one leading to IFS Food certification.
Although the Spanish national market absorbs a large part of the production, our plant in the Riojan town of Autol exports tinned foods to countries all over the world. These countries include France, Germany, the USA, Canada and even Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Around 40% of our tinned foods ends up on the international market. We have a strong presence in Europe and America, but our products also reach the African and Asian continents.
All forecasts for this year show an increase in exports. Our goal at Autor Foods is to continue growing in this area. In order to achieve this, we’re relying on two powerful resources: more than 100 years of experience in the production of tinned foods and our annual production capacity which exceeds 100 million units.